Nutrition Guide For Expectant & New Mothers
One of the most important responsibilities of a mother is to be able to provide her child with the best nutrition possible. Giving your child a solid nutritional foundation has a lifelong impact on his or her physical, mental and social development, and is key to ensure your child grows up happy and healthy.
Looking after your nutritional status, both prior to and during pregnancy, will have a huge impact on fetal growth and health. It is therefore important for expectant mothers to consume adequate quantities of appropriate nutrients. It’s also vital to monitor weight before and during pregnancy, and as well as after birth; work with your health care provider to determine your individual weight parameters and manage your weight accordingly.
Lara De Santana, Futurelife dietitian and FeedingMinds.org, shares in this article nutritional tips for expectant and breastfeeding mothers.
Nutrition before pregnancy
Certain micronutrients, specifically iron and folate, have effects on pregnancy outcome that have been shown with some consistency. Some observational studies suggest that use of micronutrient-containing prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy is associated with reductions in the risk of congenital defects, pre-term delivery, low infant birth weight, and preeclampsia.
The reason for recommending sufficient intake of folic acid prior to pregnancy is in order to ensure the body has a healthy level of this micronutrient from the very start of fetal development. (Guideline: 400 mcg per day prior to pregnancy).
Nutrition during pregnancy
The following nutrients are notably important either at specific stages of pregnancy, and/or during pregnancy:
FOLATE: Folate plays a vital role in the neural tube development (into brain and spinal cord) of the baby. This development occurs in the early stages of pregnancy, which makes adequate levels of folate particularly important during this time.
Folate occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, particularly dark green leafy vegetables. Spinach, liver, asparagus and Brussel sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.
At least five servings of folate-rich vegetables and fruit are recommended per day, both prior to and during pregnancy. Pregnant women, who are unable to meet their folate requirements by eating a sufficient quantity of foods naturally high in folate, are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or take folic acid supplements.
Nutrients related functions
The importance of eating a nutritionally balanced diet is important for everyone, but pregnant women need to ensure their intake of nutrients is sufficient to support their own requirements, as well as those of their unborn baby. Listed below are selected nutrients and their related functions:
- Protein: Plays a key role in the development of new tissue, cells, blood and bones.
- Iron: High levels are required during pregnancy; often iron supplements are required.
- Iodine: Involved in brain and nervous system development.
- Folate: Vital in neural tube development.
- Other important nutrients: Zinc, calcium, vitamins A and C.
“The Futurelife range of products can be used as part of a healthy eating plan during pregnancy. Not only do these high energy, high protein products along with their low GI formulation (in selected products) keep your energy levels sustained for longer; they also boast 25 vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C, Folic acid, Calcium, Iron and Iodine which are important nutrients during pregnancy,” says De Santana.
Nutrition during breastfeeding
Breastfeeding requires additional energy and nutrients. The nutrients that are important for a healthy supply of breast milk are similar to those that are important for a healthy pregnancy, namely protein, zinc, calcium, vitamins A and C, iron and folate.
Breastfeeding mothers require a varied and nutritious diet. This diet should include legumes, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. In addition, as always, ensure adequate hydration. It may take up to three years for a mother’s nutritional resources to be completely replenished after she has stopped breastfeeding.
Visit the website at www.futurelife.co.za for further nutritional information and some ideas on convenient smoothie recipes.
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